by Jerry Lee
The oral exam for PSLE English has a total of 30 marks and makes up 15% of your overall English Score for PSLE. For students taking O – Level or N(A) – Level, the oral component takes up 30 marks or 20% of your overall English score. For this blog post, we will be covering the reading portion. I will be highlighting some simple ways to show you how to score for your oral English exam.
1. Be mindful of your pronunciation
As Singaporeans who are used to speaking Singlish, we don’t really focus so much on our pronunciation during our everyday dialogues. (It’s okay, I don’t speak Perfect Queen’s English too. I speak like a Singaporean and I am proud of it!) However, when it comes to your oral examination, it is time to code switch. Be 100% aware of your pronunciation of words!
– be wary of words ending with ‘-st’. Make sure you say “first” and not “Firsss”. “Cast” and not “Casss”
– articulate words ending with ‘-ed’. But do not over do it! Keep it light and subtle
– the ‘th’ sound requires you to put the tip of your tongue against the back, near the bottom edge of your upper 2 front teeth. Now pronounce the word “The” instead of “Der”. Again, keep it light and subtle. Overdoing this may end up in you spraying spittle all over your teacher.
Also, do not start faking a British or American accent. Having an ‘ang moh’ accent won’t impress your examiners! Be natural!
2. Pace yourself
Students taking oral examinations are usually nervous and can’t wait to get over the whole ordeal. It shows in their reading. Don’t let your nervousness get the better of you! Keep calm and slow down! Remember to pause at the comma and take a longer pause at the full-stop. Take a deep breath before the start of each sentence and make sure you maintain your pace according to the punctuation and phrases used. In some cases, I have seen students pausing too long at difficult words and speeding up when they get over the word, then pausing to catch a breath when there is no comma and rushing through full stops. The punctuation is there to help you pace yourself and catch your breath. Follow it! Keep to the momentum dictated by the commas and full stops. If you choose to ignore it, your entire flow of reading will be gone.
3. Sit up straight, keep your chin up.
Proper posture plays a huge role when you are reading. When you slouch or rest your head on your hand, your reading will be affected. Sit up straight, hold the paper in front of you with your hands/arms resting on the table and read confidently. Make sure your head is not tilted down so low that the movement of your chin is restricted as your throat will become scrunched up or squeezed. You want your head to be facing straight ahead so that your voice will be projected loud and clear, not soft and slurred. Good posture will allow you to read better and keep you from mumbling.
4. Read with enthusiasm and feeling.
Many students become extremely self-conscious when examined for their reading prowess. They become so tensed and so conscious of points 1 and 2 that they forget about the tone of their voice. They end up reading in a monotone so robotic that they can all go audition for the upcoming Terminator movie. Add some oomph to your reading! For the older students, don’t worry about sounding dorky or uncool! The only person who can hear you read, other than yourself, is an examiner whom you will probably never see in your entire life again! Read in a lively manner! ( Of course don’t overdo it, if not your examiner will suspect that you have not taken your medication.)
5. Practise reading out loud while waiting for your turn
When it is your turn to be sitting on the waiting chair, make sure you take the time to fully prep yourself. Read. Out. Aloud. To. Yourself. Yes, don’t be shy. Again, no one is going to judge you or laugh at you. This preparation time is important because reading the passage a few times will help you loosen your tongue, stretch your mouth and clear your throat. You will also get used to the rhythms and fluctuations of the passage. You must also use this time to practise pronouncing that one difficult word that always pops up in the passage.
6. Oh My God. How do I pronounce THAT word?!
It seems like for every oral english test or exam, you will always encounter that one word that you are not too sure on how to go about pronouncing it. It seems like examiners always have some form kind of sadistic streak.
“Hey let’s see if the kids can pronounce ‘Otorhinolaryngologist’. Hahaha!”
If you see evil words like that, don’t panic. You won’t lose 5 marks just because you can’t pronounce 1 word properly. Break the words into smaller parts and try your best saying it out. You might want to practice it a few times (see point 4.) Try not to pause too long when reading the word, and after you get over that torturous moment, refrain from speeding up. The trick is to maintain the momentum of your reading as much as possible. Don’t let a few difficult words mess up your flow.
7. Relax! Relax! Relax!
The key thing to take note for oral is to relax. Your examiner is not some troll who lives under a bridge waiting to eat little children. Your examiner is just a bored teacher who can’t wait to get this over and done with so that she can go home and actually — have a life. The more nervous you are, the more mistakes you make. Even if you fumble, keep calm, relax, and read on. To err is only human. Not all of us are born with the linguistic skills of Eminem or Barack Obama. I have a tendency to stutter when I talk too. But does that stop me from doing public presentations or creating my own online teaching courses? No! Once you realise people are more worried about what others are thinking of them, you will stop worrying about what others are thinking of you.
Take a chill pill. Smile at your examiner. Be polite. Sit up straight. And read without inhibitions!
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